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Indigenous Peoples, Research and Ethics


Walter, M, Indigenous Peoples, Research and Ethics, Engaging with Ethics in International Criminological Research, Routledge, M Adorjan M and R Ricciardelli (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 87-105. ISBN 978-1138938397 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2016 Michael Adorjan and Rose Ricciardelli

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A heavy over-representation of Indigenous people within criminal justice and state welfare systems is a co1runon factor of first-world colonized nation-states. In Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the US and Canada this over-representation positions Indigenous peoples as a group of key interest for criminological researchers and there is a significant body of criminological literature documenting this positioning in each country. This over-representation also positions Indigenous peoples as a disproportionately vulnerable group and highlights the criticality of ensuring that the conduct of research with Indigenous peoples meets high ethical standards. Conducting ethical research with, or about, Indigenous peoples, however requires much more than standard ethical approval from university or other institutional ethics committees.

Research with Indigenous peoples, particularly the ethical aspects of this research, is not neutral territory. Not only are there unique ethical principles, guidelines and needs associated with such research, the realm is also awash with racial, cultural, social and political assumptions. The signing of a consent form, for example, taken as evidence of a participant's voluntary informed participation in the research, may neither be culturally applicable nor meaningful for Indigenous participants. The complex realm of ethical Indigenous research practice in settler states, therefore, has to be examined from both ends of the research spectrum. The ethical principles and perspectives that the Indigenous subjects of research have articulated and the ethical dimensions of worldviews and values that researchers themselves bring to their research alongside the compatibility of these with Indigenous research ethics are central concerns of ethical research practice with Indigenous peoples.

The chapter begins with an overview of the shared positionality of Indigenous peoples on the hierarchy of socio-economic and cultural disadvantage and within criminal justice systems in their respective first-world colonized nation-states: Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the US and Canada. The chapter then details Indigenous ethical perspectives, as they are conceived formally and informally, and their ramifications for criminology researchers in the practice of ethical research. For Indigenous peoples, ethical research is research that recognizes and respects Indigenous cultural values, norms, knowledges and sovereign rights. To this encl most of our example first-world settler states have developed sets of ethical guidelines to inform researchers designing and conducting culturally appropriate and collaborative research. A cross-national comparative analysis of these demonstrates both the essential similarities across cultures and nation-states as well as national variations.

The chapter then addresses the ethical impact of the cultural, social and racial milieu of the researcher: the researcher's worldview. Even if the researcher is fully cognizant of Indigenous ethical dimensions, the outc01ne is not necessarily ethical research. If they do not understand their own social position and how this frames their research practice then a significant potential to do research harm remains. Researchers' worldview, and the value and belief systems that flow from this, shape and influence the research questions they regard as important, the way data are gathered, from whom, and, often most critically, the interpretation of those data. Criminological research is not purely a scholarly endeavor and those interpretations have social and public policy resonance. Far removed from researchers themselves, research findings have real life effects on Indigenous peoples and communities. An Australian research example is used to demonstrate such ethical issues.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Criminology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Other law, politics and community services
Objective Field:Other law, politics and community services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Walter, M (Professor Maggie Walter)
ID Code:110452
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-07-27
Last Modified:2017-06-23

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